Israel-Turkey relations became an area of interest to me when I arrived in Türkiye on the day Hamas went on the rampage against Israel perpetrating unspeakable acts against civilian targets including children and babies.
7.10.23 was a new low in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The news of Hamas terrorists attacking a music festival and killing many young people and taking hostages has received widespread international condemnation. Moreover, the murder of children and babies is absolutely sickening. Not to forget the rape of young women and the obscenity of their public humiliation.
Without going into further horrific detail, what happened on that day is so bad it is being referred to as Israel’s 9/11. No person with the least bit of respect for humanity can condone such actions, least of all supporting those gloating over their atrocities and actively publicising them to intimidate and instill fear.
Needless to say, the Israeli response was swift, with targeted hits on Hamas in Gaza. In response to these the UK, USA and other nations were quick to recognise Israel’s right to defend itself. What then was the response in Turkey?
Israel-Turkey relations as seen in the media
The only English news channel available in my hotel room was TRT World and coming from a news background, I was curious to see how they would cover the unfolding tragedy. Expecting a strong bias in favour of the Palestinian viewpoint, I was surprised to see they were prepared to share both sides of the story.
Viewers could hear from Jewish correspondents in Israel, as well as Arab reporters in Gaza, with victims of violence on both sides telling their stories. And of course, as to be expected in a nation where Islam is the main religion, there were many expressions of solidarity for our ‘Muslim brothers’.
I watched an address by the President of Türkiye, Recep Erdoğan who said that Israel must act as a State and not as an organisation. He referred to Hamas as an organisation and not a state. His point was that as a state, Israel should not target civilians and needed to open corridors for humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Many Arab voices were featured criticising Israel’s response to the attacks, saying that they were ‘a revenge act’ or ‘not a proportionate response’. There were regular references to the plight of 2.3 million Gazans with over 100,000 displaced, without power, and without water.
Israel did of course turn off Gaza’s power supply and said it would not come back on until the hostages were released. Palestine’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyad Mansour spoke of “a horrific situation for our civilians” and called for humanitarian aid. Others described “the relentless bombardment of Gaza” and accused Israel of breaching international law.
It seems that in the Arab World, the crux of the Israel-Palestine issue is the way the map of the Middle East has changed since the founding of the modern State of Israel.
The visual below indicates an Arab perspective of how ‘Filistin’ has lost ground to ‘Israil’ since 1947. What they don’t show is the vast percentage of Arab lands surrounding this tiny Jewish nation. It truly is a David and Goliath situation. As such the Turkish word, ‘Filistin’ speaks volumes.
Turkey was of course the occupying power of the Holy Land for many centuries in the days of the Ottoman Empire. The British took control of the region following World War 1 and the Balfour Declaration paved the way to the establishment of the Modern State of Israel in 1948.
It is worth mentioning that Turkey has areas of conflict over land as well. The island of Cyprus is divided under Greek Cypriot and Turkish rule. Bitter wars were fought over this partition. I once crossed the border in the capital, Nicosia from what the Turkish media refer to as ‘Greek-administered Cyprus.’ The partition seems unnecessary, especially if Turkey’s aspirations to join the EU are met.
Just as the Turks lay claim to the whole of Cyprus, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority would like to see the entire region returned to them. This is never going to happen. Israel is the Promised Land of the Jewish People and has had a Jewish presence since the walls of Jericho fell. Sadly most were forced into diaspora but God has supernaturally brought them back from the four corners of the earth.
Undoubtedly the Holocaust facilitated the revived Jewish homeland. Why did it take the extermination of 6 million people to move things in this direction. As we say about this colossal genocide, ‘never again’. However never again is now. Never again means standing with Israel and upholding her right to exist.
At the core of this argument is Israel’s right to exist at all. Watching the media coverage in Izmir, it was clear to me that Israel-Turkey relations are fragile and could easily sour. However, there was at least acceptance of Israel as a state. A nation cannot act as a state unless it is one. The State of Israel exists and will continue to do so forever.
Pray for the Israel-Palestine conflict. Pray for Israel at war.